The Minnesota Legislature had a short week, with offices closed on Monday due to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. On Tuesday, legislators were back and committees continued with introductory hearings and began hearing bills.
House Passes MNsure Bill
Thursday evening, the House amended and passed SF1. This package allots $300 million as a premium rebate to qualifying families and $15 million to insurance providers for continuation of care for select patients. Amendments adopted included a co-op for rural Minnesota to create alternative health care options and provisions allowing insurance companies to offer policies that do not cover all of the benefits which are mandated under federal law. This bill will likely be headed for a conference committee. Both parties have expressed urgency in passing MNsure premium relief, and Speaker Kurt Daudt hopes to have this to Governor Mark Dayton by Thursday. However, Governor Dayton has voiced concern over the House language.
Buffers Testimony Heard
Thursday, a joint hearing of the Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance and Agriculture Policy Committees heard four hours of testimony on the issue of buffering public waters to improve water quality. State officials testified that much of the impacted land in the state is already in compliance with legislation passed in 2015 and 2016, and that they believe full compliance can be achieved by the November 2017 deadline for lakes and rivers and the 2018 deadline for public drainage ditches. Proponents of buffers advocated for clean water for Minnesotans and highlighted the immense progress already made. Opponents discussed the unclear process put forth by the Department of Natural Resources, which has led to confusion among those affected.
Real ID Advances
Real ID (HF3) continued its journey through the legislative process in the House. The current bill proposes a two-tier system allowing Minnesotans to have the option of obtaining a “Real ID” compliant driver’s license or a non-compliant driver’s license. The non-compliant license would require other forms of federally compliant identification to travel by air. The DFL has expressed concern with how this proposal affects undocumented immigrants. Rep. Dennis Smith (R-34B), the bill’s author, testified that this would not prohibit undocumented Minnesotans from getting a driver’s license in the future. The bill passed 12-11 out of the House Transportation Finance Committee and will be heard in Ways and Means next Monday.
Upcoming Legislative Activity
- The House and Senate will likely convene a Conference Committee on MNsure with hopes of getting the bill to Governor Dayton by the end of the week. Governor Dayton has expressed concerns with the House and Senate approach.
- The House Tax Committee will start hearing bills for possible inclusion in an Omnibus Tax Bill. They will continue hearing bills next week.
- On Monday, Governor Dayton will give his State of the State address. The next day, he is scheduled to release his budget for the next fiscal year.
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